How to Tell What Your Gold Bullion, Coin, or Jewelry is Worth (2021 Update)

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You're considering selling your family heirloom, gold coin collection, or old gold jewelry. The problem is, you have no idea what they’re worth. To make matters worse, you're not sure whether you can trust third-party appraisers, or if you should do your own at-home testing. 

If this sounds like you, you've come to the right place. The good news is that, as long as you know the fineness of your item, it's not difficult to calculate how much your gold is worth. However, that doesn't guarantee that you will get a fair deal for your sale. 

The bitter truth is that many “cash for gold” shops operate on the ignorance of the consumer. Their ideal customer isn't aware of the actual value of their broken or unwanted jewelry, and they take advantage of their ignorance by offering lowball prices that don't reflect its true worth. 

To defend yourself from predatory buyers, you need to know what your gold is worth. Luckily, you don't need to be a jeweler or gemologist to find out. Below, we've detailed how to find the value of your gold, using a manual pen-and-paper method, as well as a free online gold value calculator. 

Can I Sell My Gold at Full Market Price?

In short, probably not. Unless you have a solid gold bar or coin (24K, or 99.9% purity), you will have to sell your item at scrap value since the buying party must melt and refine it in order to retrieve the gold that it contains. Even then, 24K gold will still only net you close to the spot price of gold (i.e., 90-95% at best) from a typical gold buyer. 

Any gold item with a fineness level of 24K or less will be sold for significantly less than the official spot price of gold set by the London Bullion Market Association. If you want to manually find out your gold item’s scrap value (i.e., market resale value), you can follow the procedure we've outlined below. 

How to Manually Calculate Your Gold Value 

You can't simply check the price of gold and multiply it by the weight of your item in ounces. Since most gold jewelry and personal possessions contain solder, the valuation process is, unfortunately, more complicated than that. 

First, start by converting ounces to grams. Scrap value is calculated by the conversion ratio of 23.35 grams per ounce (or, 14.175 grams per half-ounce). Take the current spot price of gold and divide it by 31.1—there are 31.1 grams in one troy ounce, which is the standard unit of mass used in the precious metals industry.  

Let's say the price of gold is $1,750 per troy ounce. In this case, the per-gram price is $56.27 (1,750/31.1). Next, you have to divide your item's karat count by 24 (i.e., the fineness of a pure gold item), then multiply the resulting number by today’s spot price of gold. This will give you a scrap value that's adjusted to your item's fineness. 

For example, a scrap value of a 14K gold necklace would be worth about $32.81 per gram ($56.27*.583). If the necklace weighs 10 grams (with 14-karat fineness), then you can expect a final scrap price of around $328.10 (32.81*10). 

Where to Sell Your Gold Items

Gold buying shops often utilize predatory (or, at least, near-predatory) anti-consumer business practices when buying a customer's jewelry or precious metals coinage. They depend on their customers not knowing the true value of their possessions and then allowing themselves to sell the item at a steep discount. 

At a typical pawnshop or “cash for gold” shop, you're likely to hear one of two common sales tactics from the buyer:

  • If the item is <24K: “Your gold isn't pure, which makes it hard to sell. Since it has to go through a refiner, they too have to earn a profit. After the cost of the refiner's time and materials, plus my own margin, the best I can do is 40% of the advertised melt value.”
  • If the item is 24K: “It's too soft to sell to a jewelry store, and there aren't many other vendors I could sell this item to. I wish I could offer you more, but I just don't know who I could sell this to.”

To avoid these predatory tactics, take your gold item to the open market online, or directly to a reputable smelter or jeweler. Stay away from the cash-for-gold middlemen. This way, you're much more likely to secure an offer that reflects the item’s actual value.

In any case, your best line of defense is to find out how much your gold is worth beforehand. Once you’ve discovered the true value of your gold, then you'll have a ballpark estimation of what to expect in return for the item on the market. 

How to Find Your Gold Jewelry's Fineness

Knowing the fineness (or purity) of your gold item is just as important as knowing the gold spot price when selling gold jewelry for scrap. The fineness of precious metals is denoted by karat values (K), which is the ratio of gold to alloy metals contained within the item. 

The chart below demonstrates the differences in purity at each of the most common fineness levels for precious metals like gold and silver. 

KaratParts GoldPercent Gold
2424/24100.00%
1818/2475.00%
1414/2458.33%
1212/2450.00%
1010/2441.66%

If you're unsure of the fineness of your gold item, you can follow these steps to find out what level of purity your gold item contains. 

  • Use a Magnifying Glass: Many pieces of modern jewelry are engraved with small markings that denote the item's fineness. Using a magnifying glass, check the underside of the piece (i.e., the stamp) for a hallmark specifying purity (e.g., 10K).  
  • Perform an Acid Test: If there isn't an engraved hallmark, or if it's been made unreadable over the years, you can purchase an at-home aqua regia acid test to discover your item's purity. For these tests, you scrape the metal and then drop an acidic solution on the streak. The solution will change color according to its purity level. 
  • Perform a Skey test: Alternatively, you can purchase a secondary manual test known as a “Skey test”. These are pens that secrete acidic gold-testing solutions so you don't have to handle a dropper.
  • Take Your Gold to a Jeweler: If you are still uncertain about your metal's purity level, you can take it to a trusted and reputable jeweler who can carry out a metal assay to determine the item’s exact   

No matter your item's fineness, expect a jeweler's markup. After all, the buyer needs to make a profit too. Nonetheless, you shouldn't accept predatorily low offers that aren't close (i.e. more than 20-25% less) from its calculated scrap value. 

Discover What Your Gold is Worth in Seconds

Don't feel like doing the math? Luckily, there are simple online tools that find your gold's scrap or melt value in seconds. 

You can use our gold value calculator if you're curious about the melt value of your jewelry or coinage. These easy-to-use tools simplify the process of finding your gold's true market value, so you don't have to crunch the numbers yourself.

Alternatively, you can manually find out what your gold is worth according to today's up-to-the-minute spot prices by using our gold pricing page. We use the most accurate pricing data available, sourced directly from the London Bullion Market Association twice daily, at 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. London time. 

 

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Mark T.
Mark has worked in the investment industry in Chicago and New York for over 15 years. After graduating from Chicago State University with a degree in Finance, he has occupied various management positions at reputable banks and financial institutions, including: Chase, Bank of America, Wachovia, Sterling Trust and Fidelity. His experience has led him to develop a keen understanding of the current economic landscape. For the past 10 years, Mark has been working as an independent investment advisor and has helped many Americans learn how to protect and grow their savings by properly diversifying their portfolios.
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